Understanding how people interface with their surroundings is what Kevin Block does every day at Honda R&D Americas (HRA) in his role as a Human Machine Interface (HMI) engineer. But it was his interfacing with one person, in particular, that earned him HRA’s 2018 Citizenship Award: Year of Service.
Block was recognized for his volunteer work with the Community Connectors mentoring program at the Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS) nonprofit in Columbus, Ohio. CRIS “aim(s) to facilitate sustained self-sufficiency and successful integration” for area refugees and immigrants.
“I’ve been introduced to so many people who’ve had to cope with so much in their life,” Block said. “And still, they just want to go to school, be able to have family dinners, and do things like watch and play soccer.”
But it was a young Somali refugee who, Block said, has impacted him the most. For the past two years, Block has served as a mentor to him, helping him adjust to life in Columbus, including finding summer work and navigating the public school system.
As part of CRIS’s mentoring program, Block is encouraged to take his mentee to fun activities, including Columbus Crew games, movies, and even rock climbing.
“We’ve become friends,” Block said. “I definitely got a lot more into soccer because of him.”
“That’s one of the beautiful parts about CRIS,” Block noted. “They have in-school mentorships and outside-of-school opportunities, which is what I do.”
Block noted, however, that the program has frequent struggles with funding, operating almost entirely from donations. CRIS uses those funds to reach hundreds of kids with job-searching activities, field trips, and more. That made Block’s award extra special.
“When I saw there was an opportunity to make a donation to CRIS I was really excited,” he said. As a part of his Citizenship Award, Block can direct a financial donation to an eligible nonprofit of his choice. He, of course, has selected CRIS.
And that is something Block encourages all associates to do: Find a nonprofit they are passionate about and get involved.
“You not only get to do something valuable, but there are some personal benefits as well,” he said, “like becoming part of a community and meeting some amazing people. If helping people interests you, then you’re going to meet people who are similar.”
And those relationships can be life-changing.
“My time with CRIS has certainly broadened my understanding of communities around the world and right here within my own city,” he said. “I am incredibly lucky to have the opportunities that I do in my life, and I want to make sure others have similar opportunities.”
It’s that type of dedication that makes Honda a company society wants to exist—and that makes associates like Block worth recognizing for his Year of Service.